After 8 long weeks, 4 scintillating test matches, some 4 and a half thousand runs scored and 152 wickets taken, the fate of the Ashes urn came down to the fifth and final test at the Brit Oval, South London. And who’d have believed those 10 tickets for the first days play, purchased by Amil ‘Olga Korbet’ Patel this time last year, would be as precious – and as rare – as a Wil Scott half century.
For some of the intrepid 10, the day began at the ‘crack-o’-sparrow-fart’ (an antipodean term for very early in the morning) with a stop off at the ‘ubiquitous’ greasy spoon round the corner from the Oval for a big plate of ham, eggs, sausage, black pudding fried tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, fried bread beans and bit of bubble, all washed down with a couple of piping hot mugs of tea and coffee – clearly a tactic designed to line the stomach (if not the arteries) before the days drinking began in earnest. [For another portly member of the group the day started just as early, though this balding bean counter preferred to spend the morning preparing an elephant-sized hamper and flask of tea knowing full well that it was going to be a long, long day ahead.]
For once the weathermen at the Beeb were spot on and, with the sun blazing away in the cloudless south-east sky, play started promptly at 10.30am. At 10.30 and 2 seconds the sound of ice-cold cans of Stella popping was heard Row H11-21.
The cracking pace set by the 2 England openers in the morning session was only matched by the number of beers consumed by the Captain and Vice-Captain of the Exiles. Q, our very own ‘Trescothick’, turned up 40 minutes later than everyone else and tried to blame his tardiness on the public transport system. However, everyone knew he’d been chancing his arm with the leggy NPower girls.
As wickets started to tumble so did ‘Pot down the steps on his way to the toilet (ok, so he didn’t but it would’ve been funny if he had). Honours were even in the match, and all agreed it was a joy to watch Shane ‘The Plough’ Warne tweak his way through England’s top order. Then the inexplicable happened. With England reeling at 131 for 4 in strode Freddie ‘The Plough’ Flintoff. Here was or is the World’s most exciting cricketer, a genius, a natural, the ‘new Botham’. No one stirred – except Bradders who decided to leave the ground and go to the local pub to watch the game on the telly!!
Freddie did what Freddie does best and started to tuck into the Aussie bowling as eagerly as Plough was tucking into his hamper of brie and Milan salami baguettes, chicken zorba, hummus and lettuce kebabs, hot dogs and Bakewell tarts.Oh joy! It wasn’t too long before Andrew – The Plough – Strauss notched up his 7th test century, pushing the score up to 274 before Freddie was caught off Glenn “The Plough” McGrath.
Once Strauss fell with the score on 297 the final session of day’s play petered out with England finishing with a respectable 317 for 7. Unfortunately, the beer too had petered out so the boys regrouped outside the ground and headed off for a ‘session’ of their own at a local pub known by Sam – Alfred E Neumann – Scott. After being led a merry dance and hiking round most of south London, at long last the elusive pub was found… and discovered that it had been shut for past 15 years.
Undeterred the chaps stumbled forward and came upon a hostelry that must rank amongst one of the world’s most boring. With the clubs motto of – What would Jeff do? – furthest from anyone’s mind the chaps had a good go at drinking the place dry.
A special note should be inserted here to acknowledge the fact that Q, Capt Winco and Korbett remained sober enough to win a prize in the pub quiz.Well done ladies!
While this report of the day finally comes to an end, this could not be said of the evening for one or two Exiles, who found themselves either destined for a wasp-infested B&B in Basingstoke, or heading out of town on a night bus to Hell – well New Cross, which is probably scarier.
Photos and text from: Pablo Palao